People looking for information on hospitals or other health care facilities can find “grades” and “stars” from government and private rating groups. Facilities receive an over-all rating (0-5 stars at www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare or “A” to “F” at www.leapfroggroup.org) as well as ratings on specific quality measures, like medication safety and facility-acquired infections. The over-all ratings are helpful, but do not provide the whole story; it’s important to look at the rating agency’s detailed results. Those often reveal specific risks that can delay recovery or discharge or lead to an entirely new healthcare crisis.
For example, all four hospitals in my county received “A’s” for patient safety from The Leapfrog Group, an independent national organization that evaluates hospitals’ performance in protecting patients from preventable harm. Only about one-third of US hospitals received this grade. However, when I looked at details in the report on one of these hospitals, I found that the facility received red-zone “below average” scores on urinary tract infections (“UTI’s”), death from serious treatable medical complications, and surgical wounds that split open, as well as poor ratings on communication with healthcare providers and overall staff responsiveness.
A report published by BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) in 2016 found that preventable medical error was the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Subsequent reports, including the documentary “To Err is Human” released earlier this year, explored those findings and highlighted patient safety issues. (www.toerrishumanfilm.org) To paraphrase a doctor interviewed in that film: Patients and their loved ones need to take responsibility for their own safety in healthcare facilities; that’s not fair, but it’s reality.
This situation is said to be improving, and a good over-all rating is a positive sign when you’re picking a facility. However, it’s important to look at scores on specific quality measures to know whether there are particular areas of care that need to be watched more closely. For example, at a facility that received a poor rating on controlling UTI’s, make sure the patient always has access to drinking water (if medically ok), encourage the patient to drink it, and be sure that medical staff evaluates the possibility of a UTI if the patient shows signs of infection like a sudden spike in temperature or uncharacteristic behavior.
Everyone needs someone who is prepared to speak up and protect their safety across healthcare settings. The Leapfrog Group and CampaignZERO (www.campaignZERO.org) provide patient safety tips, and private, professional advocates like members of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates are also available for community education, individual and family support. You can find local advocates at www.advoconnection.com People in nursing homes and residential care facilities can get help from the Long Term Care Ombudsman services program in their area. To find the Ombudsman program near you, go to www.theconsumervoice.org/get_help.
For more information on patient safety and health advocacy, please visit my website www.SquareOneAdvocacy.com

People looking for information on hospitals or other health care facilities can find “grades” and “stars” from government and private rating groups. Facilities receive an over-all rating (0-5 stars at www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare or “A” to “F” at www.leapfroggroup.org) as well as ratings on specific quality measures, like medication safety and facility-acquired infections. The over-all ratings are helpful, but do not provide the whole story; it’s important to look at the rating agency’s detailed results. Those often reveal specific risks that can delay recovery or discharge or lead to an entirely new healthcare crisis.
For example, all four hospitals in my county received “A’s” for patient safety from The Leapfrog Group, an independent national organization that evaluates hospitals’ performance in protecting patients from preventable harm. Only about one-third of US hospitals received this grade. However, when I looked at details in the report on one of these hospitals, I found that the facility received red-zone “below average” scores on urinary tract infections (“UTI’s”), death from serious treatable medical complications, and surgical wounds that split open, as well as poor ratings on communication with healthcare providers and overall staff responsiveness.
A report published by BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) in 2016 found that preventable medical error was the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Subsequent reports, including the documentary “To Err is Human” released earlier this year, explored those findings and highlighted patient safety issues. (www.toerrishumanfilm.org) To paraphrase a doctor interviewed in that film: Patients and their loved ones need to take responsibility for their own safety in healthcare facilities; that’s not fair, but it’s reality.
This situation is said to be improving, and a good over-all rating is a positive sign when you’re picking a facility. However, it’s important to look at scores on specific quality measures to know whether there are particular areas of care that need to be watched more closely. For example, at a facility that received a poor rating on controlling UTI’s, make sure the patient always has access to drinking water (if medically ok), encourage the patient to drink it, and be sure that medical staff evaluates the possibility of a UTI if the patient shows signs of infection like a sudden spike in temperature or uncharacteristic behavior.
Everyone needs someone who is prepared to speak up and protect their safety across healthcare settings. The Leapfrog Group and CampaignZERO (www.campaignZERO.org) provide patient safety tips, and private, professional advocates like members of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates are also available for community education, individual and family support. You can find local advocates at www.advoconnection.com People in nursing homes and residential care facilities can get help from the Long Term Care Ombudsman services program in their area. To find the Ombudsman program near you, go to www.theconsumervoice.org/get_help.
For more information on patient safety and health advocacy, please visit my website www.SquareOneAdvocacy.com